It’s already been established that Thanksgiving is not my favorite because of the anxiety a food holiday brings to a food allergy mom. Consequently, I’ve become that person that everyone hates, you know, the one that has their Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving. Spoiler alert: I LOVE CHRISTMAS! but back to Thanksgiving…
Thanks to Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving, I’ve started some new traditions with Squid (and now Tank). On Thanksgiving morning, I make us a meal of toast, pretzels, (kettle) popcorn, and skittles (instead of jelly beans). We sit and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while eating our “Thanksgiving Feast.”
Thanksgiving may not be my favorite, but enjoying a nontraditional tradition with my boys is the best! The meal was a hit! Of course, he ate the Skittles first but that’s to be expected. ONWARD TO CHRISTMAS!!!
Thanksgiving hits a sore spot with me. The thought of putting food traditions before family traditions is just sad. Isn’t the point of Thanksgiving to GIVE THANKS? I mean, it’s right there in the title of the holiday. Thankful for family, friends, and the ability to be together SAFELY. Shouldn’t we be able to put food traditions aside for those closest to us?
I thought this year would be different. I had been texting Squid’s teacher about their menu for the “Pilgrims and Indians” celebration they were having at the preschool. She and I were so excited that Squid would be included and that he would finally be able to safely sit at the same table with his friends while eating a meal. Then everything changed.
The program director decided to bring back the tradition of inviting parents to the celebration. That’s great but that meant the menu would be changing. It also meant Squid would be left at his own table, eating by himself once again for this day that is suppose to be a celebration with friends. I was heart broken! I was especially heart broken that I received this news the day before the event. After talking with the program director, she decided she would bring some safe items for him to eat so he could be included.
Hindsight: I should have just volunteered to bring him a lunch but we’ll get back to that later.
The day of the Pilgrims and Indians celebration, I’m still a little sad for Squid but I decided to put it behind me because I knew we could safely sit with a friend or two as long as we left some space and washed up after the meal. Seating arrangements quickly became the least of my worries.
Walk into the cafeteria and look at all the food on the table
- Breaded chicken: DANGER!
- Mac & Cheese, mac & cheese, mac & cheese: DANGER DANGER DANGER!
HOW MANY DISHES OF MAC & CHEESE DO WE NEED?! DANGER!! How are we going to keep all those cheesy hands away from my contact allergic child? DANGER!!
- Stay calm, stay calm, smile, look confident
- Do those veggies have butter in them?
- Look at all that icing on those cookies! DANGER!
- Look confident, smile, don’t freak out, Squid had his own food….
Wait this is not what we discussed. Where is the safe food for my child? Where’s the grilled chicken? She said she would order grilled chicken.
Upon realizing that thing were not going as we discussed, I asked the director if she ordered Squid any grilled chicken and she told me she already had him a plate made (the students hadn’t made it to their seats yet). His plate looked okay but when she told me she read the chicken twice and it didn’t contain Egg or Soy, I became concerned. He’s not allergic to Soy, he’s allergic to Milk. Fear rushed over me.
Hindsight: I should have scooped his plate off the table and taken it with me until I deemed it safe.
One look at the label and there it was in bold letters CONTAINS: SOY & MILK. Bless her heart, she tried but milk is everywhere. I returned to the cafeteria area to find my child sitting at his plate, digging into his meal. Every alarm went off inside of me and my adrenaline with on max. DANGER! I started screaming NO! NO! NO! WHAT DID YOU EAT? SPIT IT OUT! THE CHICKEN HAS MILK! WHAT DID YOU EAT? I squished his cheeks to open his mouth and to my relief found a pretzel inside. Thank you, God!!!
Mind of an allergy parent:
That was close. TOO CLOSE! Now what is he going to eat? That plate is contaminated. Get that plate out of here! There is only mac & cheese with a side of mac & cheese. What is he going to eat? Is it hot in here? I need to get out of here. I need to get my child out of here! Was that pretzel touching the chicken? Oh God, that was too close! That you God for your protection over my Squid! I need to get out of here.
And as you can see, after the situation was deemed “safe” I went into full-on panic attack over our close call. Yep, right there in front of everyone. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I’m doing all of this with a 20 pound baby on my hip.
Squid’s teacher kept an eye on him while the director pulled me into the back room. There was a whole lot of ugly crying, shaking, and the other lovely panic attack symptoms in the bathroom for the rest of the event. Squid’s teacher came to check on me, brought me a drink, prayed over me, and offered her general support in an unfamiliar situation. My poor husband had to leave work to come help me calm down. I was so embarrassed! I went back in to get Squid and just prayed the whole time that nobody would see my splotchy red skin and bloodshot eyes. I never want to do that again!
HOW TO KEEP IT FROM HAPPENING AGAIN:
1. Read every label, every time, YOURSELF!
This is something I know and I shouldn’t have to be reminded but here I am reminding myself that I need to read the label myself BEFORE a plate is served to my child. I went back to read the label again to see exactly which milk ingredient chicken could possible contain. It had whey protein. (If you’re not familiar with milk protein, casein and whey are the big two.) When I pointed it out to the director, she said “oh, I had no idea.”
Mind of an allergy parent:
Why would you tell me that you read the label TWICE if you don’t know which ingredients are milk?! The rest of the day’s events have just made me sad, anxious, or embarrassed but THAT just TICKS ME OFF!
2. Always bring a safe backup meal
Again, I shouldn’t have to be reminded of this but there I was without a backup plan. We take a backup meal EVERYWHERE! We’ve been doing it since he was diagnosed.
Silly mom, you know better. I’m so mad that I failed on my fail safe. I think this irritates me the most.
3. Keep informed of changes
I wish I had more control over this one but I didn’t. We were out of town an Squid’s allergy appointment when the changes were made. The teacher said the director was suppose to talk to me about it but it looks like the topic just fell through the cracks with everything else going on around this busy season. I was disappointed that I found out the night before the event that (unsafe) menu changes had been made but that’s beyond my control.
4. Action plan
I’ve read numerous upon numerous blogs about anxiety. I have bible verses memorized about dealing with anxiety. I’ve read how to ground yourself during a panic attack. Nothing worked this time. The panic attack overtook me and I felt like I was drowning. I guess it’s a natural reaction to a close call but I wish I could have kept it together a little better. Hey, at least my allergy plan was in place and worked well, right?
I’m still embarrassed.
I can’t believe it’s been over a year since my last post! That is WAY TOO LONG! Time to play a little catch up….
We had an awesome dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free Halloween party for Squid and some of his allergy and non-allergy friends. They had an amazing time (even though Squid REFUSED to wear his Olaf costume).
My husband had a surprise back surgery because he woke up one morning and couldn’t feel his foot. He had drop-foot for weeks and after several doctor visits, we discovered that his L4, L5 vertebrae were practically rubbing each other because of the lack of a disc. He ended up having a L4-S1 spinal fusion while I was 30 weeks pregnant. Needless to say, if something hit the floor in our house, it stayed there until Squid picked it up for us. Last week my husband was finally able to walk on his heals again. I know it sounds small but it’s a pretty big deal.
We welcomed “Tank” to the world at the end of January. The ultrasound tech told me that if I made it to my due date, he would be over 9lbs. Yeah… he was 6lbs, 15oz. He may have started off tiny, but at 9 months old and 20 lbs, he’s a man baby now. Big ol’ Tank.
Squid celebrated his 3rd birthday with a bike, a bounce house, and a wacky cake. Delicious!!!
We felt the call to move from the city to a small town about 2 hours south. Everything about the experience was God sent. He made it so easy! My husband had a job offer before we made it home after the interview. Our city house sold before it went on the market. Our rent house was the first one we saw. We attended one church that immediately felt like home. Bonus: We’re closer to grandparents. Amazing! Simply amazing how it all came together… but more on that later.
Squid started a new “school” at our church. It’s actually a Mother’s Day Out program but he doesn’t have to know that. He LOVES school! He loves learning. He’s such a people person and he’s fitting in so well.
Squid is down to only dairy and egg allergies with no sensitivities. He’s been cleared to try shellfish but with everything going on (and his constantly runny nose of allergy season), we’ve decided to wait. He sees the allergist again in a couple weeks.
We’ve been in some impossible situations where there is no way we should have survived with out a reaction. Maybe he’s grown out of the contact allergy? We shall see!
As for Tank, he’s showing no signs of food allergies so far.
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of “you never come see us anymore.” Not that visits were frequent before children but our closest relatives live at least an hour away.
I never knew how much stuff a baby needed when traveling. It’s quite a chore, especially if you’re staying the night! Now let’s add food allergies into that mix. YOWZAS!
Here are some of the extra steps I have to take when traveling.
1. I start by thinking (and obsessing) over every little detail. Who will be there? Will they respect my rules regarding Squid’s allergies? Will there be food? If there is food, will it be safe? If it’s not safe, will people wash their hands before touching Squid? What will we eat? How long are we staying? How much food will we need? Should I take extra cleaning wipes for other people’s hands/our eating area? HOW AM I GOING TO KEEP MY CHILD SAFE??? The list goes on and on and on!
2. Take all those questions from #1 and begin packing. It takes me AT LEAST two days to pack and make sure everything is perfect because we do not have the “stop at the nearest fast food option.” It’s what I bring or nothing because after several reactions and way too many close calls, I really have a hard time trusting food that wasn’t cooked by me or with me present.
3. The day has come. We’ve made the trip and arrived safely. The hard part is over right? HA! Not a chance. Remember all of those questions from #1? They’re still buzzing in my head but this time they’re being played out in real life. I can’t relax at all during my visit due to worry about what Squid may accidentally be exposed to and how many hives he will get THIS time.
Vacation is not a vacation for me! My idea of a vacation these days is leaving Squid with Daddy and having some Mommy time of some sort. Family events where I can relax are very rare, especially if they involve food. Needless to say, Thanksgiving is my new version of a complete nervous wreck nightmare!
4. Making it back home without hives or a hospital visit is nothing short of a miracle! Praise God!
Please be understanding. Please be patient. Food allergies are rough.
There are some things that I’ve learned since my son’s diagnosis with food allergies (particularly dairy). I have a feeling I’m going to need to continually add to this post.
1. Nobody Understands
Seriously. I’ve noticed that even within our family, unless they are involved in Squid’s day-to-day life, they just don’t get it (with a few exceptions). “What do you mean I cant bring my own food into your house? Your kid will be fine, right?” Sorry, not taking that chance. If you don’t understand, at least be respectful of the allergy parent’s decisions.
2. Gluten-free Spam
I can not tell you how many people (outside of my social circle) have sent me suggestions for products or recipes that are gluten-free. That’s all fine and dandy but it still contains DAIRY! We don’t have a wheat issue so I’m not too concerned about wheat/gluten but thanks for thinking of us.
3. What do you eat?!
Every time Squid adds a new allergen to his ever growing list, people say “Oh that poor baby. What do you eat?!” Umm…. lots of things. Sub out the dairy and there ya go, same as everyone else. We were already avoiding egg and shellfish so it was no big deal to cut them out completely when he was officially diagnosed. I don’t feel like he’s “that poor baby.” We learn to adapt for our child and it’s no big deal for us. Just a new part of our life.
4. Cutting out dairy doesn’t mean cutting out “the good stuff”
I absolutely love that there is a substitution for most dairy items! Milk, ice cream, butter, yogurt, whipped cream, cream cheese! I know I’m missing some but YUM! I also love that if there isn’t a substitute to be found, one can be created. The only thing I feel like we actually gave up was cheese. Still looking for a good sub because Daiya just doesn’t cut it for me and most of the others have casein protein.
5. Dairy is EVERYWHERE!
Do some manufacturers look at their product and say, “Hmm, what is this missing? Oh, I know, DAIRY!” Thank God for multiple brands!
6. Heightened awareness
I see food completely different now. when any kid walks in with a food item in his hand, my allergy mom radar starts going off. I feel like a crazy person but it is all for the safety of my little Squid.
7. Freaking people out is fun
I’m sorry but sometimes you just need some comic relief. When I’m feeling a little crazy and people ask about Squid’s dairy allergy, I start naming off all the crazy random things I’ve found that contain dairy. Toothpaste, chalk, balloons, deli meat, non-dairy creamer, tic-tacs, the list goes on and the look on their face is priceless. Mama’s gotta laugh at life.
8. Oh! I’m lactose intolerant too!
I know you’re trying to relate but no. Just no.
9. Ah, first time moms
When we go out to eat, I wipe down our entire table and all the chairs because Squid has a contact allergic to dairy. I see the other people looking at my young family and probably thinking “look at that first time, overprotective mom, bet she wont do that with number 2, 3, etc.” Actually, someone did say that to me once when they saw me pull his pacifier out of a ziplock bag. You better believe if future children have food allergies, I’ll be protecting them too! Doesn’t bother me one bit to keep him safe.
10. I wouldn’t change a thing
We’re foodies so we thought Squid’s diagnosis of dairy allergy was the end of the world at first. Then we realized it was just the end of the world as we knew it. Once we learned how to sub, we realized that cutting out dairy opened up a whole new world of food! Amazing food! My baby is an appropriate weight, my husband lost 50 lbs and I’m wearing jeans I wore in high school (20 lbs less than my pre-pregnancy weight). We feel healthier than we have in years and all by just cutting out dairy and not dining out. The added fact that my child could die from a sip is extremely scary and I continually pray that he’ll grow out of it soon but I do not foresee us adding it back into our diet when he is able.
So amazed by the service we recieved at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse last night. I gave the waitress our chefs card when she was taking our drink orders. After she gave it to the chef, she walked us through our order on what we could/couldn’t order/alter and how everything was cooked. Then the manager came over to check who ordered what and their proximity to the person (my son) with allergies. When our food was brought out they told is what was on each item on his plate and exactly how and where it was cooked. Amazing service! Above and beyond!
I have a friend that just discovered a dairy allergy in her son and another that is suspecting an intolerance in her newborn so I decided to put together a book of resources for beginners.
Avoiding Milk: A beginners guide
Our grand trip to Hawaii. We had everything planned out. My friend scrubbed her house top to bottom, sterilized her child’s toys, and washed the highchair. What am I forgetting? Oh yes, the pack-n-play. But her daughter hasn’t used it in forever. It’s safe right? WRONG!
We get there and get settled but of course after getting up early and traveling across 5 time zones with a screaming toddler, we’re tired. My friend gets the room set up and we call it a night. The next morning we wake up before the sun to find hives across Squid’s eye and face.
I blamed his reaction on the fact that we went to Starbucks when we arrived and I accidentally touched his bear in his bag when I was getting out wipes. I promptly stripped his bed and washed everything. I also scrubbed down his bag. Problems solved? I thought so until the following morning.
After he woke up with hives for the 2nd day in a row, I knew it wasn’t a contaminated bear. My friend gathered her spray bottle of vinegar and a container of disinfectant wipes and proceeded to wipe down every square inch of the pack-n-play. As an allergy mom, I should have taken that job upon myself.
The 3rd morning (below) was the absolute worst! Squid was extra fussy that night and I don’t blame him one bit. We had to slather his poor little face in antihistamine cream as well as a dose of benadryl.
3 days of this and I finally had my culprit nailed down, the fabric sides. I, again for the 3rd day, washed all of his bedding items and then I drug the pack-n-play out into the yard for a wash. I took regular dish soap, a sponge, and the water hose and scrubbed until the fabric oozed with bubbles. Top, bottom, inside, outside, mesh, plastic corners, padded sides, EVERYTHING! After I rinsed it, I scrubbed it again. When it was dry, I soaked it until it was dripping with vinegar. Finally, I wiped it down with disinfectant wipes. I threatened that if he woke up in hives again, I would just burn the thing and be done. Luckily, the wash took care of it!
Allergy life is such a crazy adventure, especially with a contact allergy. Lesson learned.
Before you get excited, I’m talking about foods that you can bring around (and possibly share) with your food allergy child.
We’ve always had a Sunday habit of bringing home Whataburger. That is our “cheat” meal of the week. Cheating because it’s totally unsafe! Well, what I get is totally unsafe. There are a few exceptions on the menu. It works out (for now) because Squid falls asleep on our way home from church so we swing by, pick it up on the way home, put him in the crib and then pig out. Although it does turn me into M-O.
Out of curiosity, I looked up their menu to see exactly which of their items I needed to be concerned about. Turns out, not too many and not the ones we brought home. Finally! A restaurant where Squid can actually eat! Dairy and egg allergy people, Wingstop is your friend… just don’t get any dips.
Want to add to that list of friends?
We’re having some work done on our house so we needed something quick to eat. We had a few leftovers as backup to feed Squid but not enough for the 3 of us. I really wanted some In-N-Out Burger so I looked online for their allergy menu information. Sadly, couldn’t find it but I did find several blogs of people with a dairy allergy saying they’ve eaten there safely… again without sauce.
I sent my husband to get the food. He said their customer service was amazing. They went to a separate cooking area and dedicated ONE worker to handle Squid’s food. They labeled it “the allergy burger” as it was going through its prep process. I wish all food establishments would handle allergies this way!
When I got pregnant, breakfast meats and eggs started making me nauseous (even pancakes). The thought of eggs still makes me squeamish and the big pile of greasy sausage and bacon make me feel gross all day after I eat it. How convenient that my child has an egg allergy and I never have to look at another plate of eggs at breakfast again! However, the dairy and egg allergy did cut out my husbands favorite pancake batter.
One day my husband was craving some pancakes so he searched the magical term we’ve come to love, Vegan! Squid’s Pancake recipe entered our home and they’re the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted! Nice and fluffy. I love that we’re completely vegan at breakfast now!
Ingredients: (Makes approx. 12)
2 cups flour (whichever kind you prefer)
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons baking powder (Read the ingredients! Some brands are processed in the same factory as dairy products.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups soymilk
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
See full recipe and directions here. This website is interactive so you can tell it how many you want to make and it will calculate the amount of ingredients you need.